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The Innocence of Father Brown coverFirst edition of story collection
Publication details ▽ Publication details △

First publication
The Saturday Evening Post, 1910, as "Valentin Follows a Curious Trail"

First book publication
In The Innocence of Father Brown collection, 1911

Literature form

Crime, mystery

Writing language

Author's country

approx. 7,500 words

Notable lines

Between the silver ribbon of morning and the green glittering ribbon of sea, the boat touched Harwich and let loose a swarm of folk like flies, among whom the man we must follow was by no means conspicuous—nor wished to be. There was nothing notable about him, except a slight contrast between the holiday gaiety of his clothes and the official gravity of his face. His clothes included a slight, pale grey jacket, a white waistcoat, and a silver straw hat with a grey-blue ribbon. His lean face was dark by contrast, and ended in a curt black beard that looked Spanish and suggested an Elizabethan ruff. He was smoking a cigarette with the seriousness of an idler. There was nothing about him to indicate the fact that the grey jacket covered a loaded revolver, that the white waistcoat covered a police card, or that the straw hat covered one of the most powerful intellects in Europe.

— First lines

Aristide Valentin was unfathomably French; and the French intelligence is intelligence specially and solely. He was not "a thinking machine"; for that is a brainless phrase of modern fatalism and materialism. A machine only is a machine because it cannot think. But he was a thinking man, and a plain man at the same time.


"If you know what a man's doing, get in front of him; but if you want to guess what he's doing, keep behind him. Stray when he strays; stop when he stops; travel as slowly as he. Then you may see what he saw and may act as he acted." 


"I know that people charge the Church with lowering reason, but it is just the other way. Alone on earth, the Church makes reason really supreme. Alone on earth, the Church affirms that God himself is bound by reason.""


"You attacked reason," said Father Brown. "It's bad theology."


Flambeau was an artist and a sportsman. He stepped back and swept Valentin a great bow.
"Do not bow to me, mon ami," said Valentin with silver clearness. "Let us both bow to our master."
And they both stood an instant uncovered while the little Essex priest blinked about for his umbrella.

— Last lines


Critique • Quotes